Last Visited: February 16, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Mount Peasant/Main Street)
Address: Various (Usually at Farmers Markets)
Check website for locations
Phone: (604) 721-1980
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Owner/Chef Steven Forster
- Mostly local
- Mostly organic
- Home made
- Quick/fast lines
- Chicken option
- Vegetarian option
- Vegan/gluten free (?)
- Budget friendly
- Kid friendly
- Limited menu
- Cash only
**Recommendations: Smokey Beef Chili, Vegetarian Harvest Chili
Now that’s a serious looking “food cart”. If it was fake I would consider it a novelty, but owner, chef and baker Steven Forster is serving his chili out of a 1943 wood fired Chech Army Field Kitchen. This soup kitchen used to belong to the Czechoslovakian army and he uses an environmentally friendly fire log made from 80% used coffee grounds to heat his ChiliTank.
I was on a food truck/cart mission at the Vancouver Farmers Markets and was invited here for lunch. I met the owner and operator Steven who has been a chef for the past 17 years. His first foray into the culinary world was a 3 year bakers apprenticeship in Germany which eventually landed him a job on a catering truck for movie sets in Vancouver.
Long before the food truck trend started he was already selling fish tacos at various Farmers Markets and music festivals throughout the lower mainland. Being cold and rainy half the year he always wanted to add an item that would complement Vancouver’s weather. His inspiration for ChiliTank came when he was in Germany and passed by a field kitchen serving ‘erbsensuppe’ which is a German split pea soup. He wanted to recreate this idea in Vancouver so he had one shipped from Germany. This unit attracts as many adults as it does kids.
Chili is very popular throughout North America, and despite what many people think, it did not originate in Mexico. It is a regional dish and the origins of it are forever debated, but it traces back to Spain, Aztec and also Texas. Mexico does have a version of “chili” which is a stew called Chile Verde (Green Chili) made from pork or chicken, tomatillos, and green chilies. Cincinnati also has their version which is poured over spaghetti, and then Texas is perhaps most widely known for theirs. Purists would argue that a true Texan chili would have nothing but meat, however Tex-Mex versions or many chilies outside of Texas may contain beans.
What I’ve come to known as a Southwestern food is not hugely celebrated in Vancouver, but restaurants do serve it… as well as an army tank. Originally chili was known as peasant food and made from leftover scraps of meat, and it is pretty much how I would make it at home too. That’s the thing, it is a very homestyle food that I don’t really find is necessary to go out for, but that isn’t to say I won’t or don’t. It is one of those foods that everyone thinks they make best, or at least knows someone who can make it very well. There are endless recipes for it and “the best” is really so personal.
The chili at ChiliTank isn’t specific to any sort of region or style, but maybe Vancouver. He uses local ingredients that are mostly organic and it is a quality chili. He is committed to environmentally friendly practices and he makes a chili that can be appreciated by all ages. It’s hearty comfort food that’s ideal during colder months, but I certainly wouldn’t turn one down in the summer either… at least not if it is coming from the ChiliTank. It was affordable, convenient, quick and satisfying and worth a try.
On the table:
- Filtered water, free range Empire valley ground beef, organic black beans, kidney beans, crushed tomato, tomato paste, garlic, onions, assorted chilis, spices $6. Bread and toppings (cheese, sour cream, scallions) are complimentary.
- It was served hot and the base of the chili wasn’t actually that thick, but it was a very hearty bowl of chili with lots of ingredients.
- The “filtered water” in the description threw me off and I was scared it was going to be a watery chili, but it wasn’t.
- Ideally it would be great with beef stock instead of water, but the chili had a ton of flavour despite the fact.
- The main flavour was definitely tomato, but it didn’t taste like spaghetti sauce either.
- It was tangy and flavourful with a nice kick and it had enough chili powder and spices to make it distinctly chili.
- There were large chunks of beef throughout the chili and it was very meaty.
- It was almost like a meatball stew, but the beef didn’t come across seasoned.
- The chunks of ground beef were a bit overcooked and slightly dry, but it was easily masked when I had it with the rest of the soup.
- It seemed like a lean ground beef, unless the fat just rendered out a lot during the browning process.
- The beef was not bad, but it could probably be better and it was still enjoyable.
- The beef flavour didn’t really extend into the soup base, so it wasn’t necessarily a beefy tasting broth.
- I would love for it to have more kinds of meat, but for a ground beef chili it was very good.
- It wasn’t as smoky as expected, but I could taste some spices like cumin, paprika, and chili powder.
- All of the spices were finely ground and not one of them dominant.
- The beans were also boiled from their dry state and they had a firm bite which I always appreciate.
- It wasn’t an oily or greasy chili and it was nice and savoury and a mild-medium spicy.
- Alderwood smoked organic chickpeas, organic black beans, organic corn, butternut squash, tomatoes, roasted garlic, assorted chilies, spices $6. Bread and toppings (cheese, sour cream, scallions) are complimentary.
- The Smokey Beef Chili was more tomato tasting than the vegetarian and they had very different bases.
- This vegetarian version was a dark reddish brown and it was a bit reminiscent of BBQ sauce whereas the beef chili was more like bolognese sauce.
- This was sweeter and the base was unexpectedly thicker and richer in texture.
- It reminded me of molasses and it was a stew like sauce with lots of smoky roasted tomatoes.
- I think it was perhaps seasoned with some cinnamon and cloves because the spices were sweeter and different than the beef chili.
- The sweet spices were subtle and again none of the spices were dominant or particularly obvious.
- There were a ton of chickpeas and beans which were all boiled from their dry state and they had a nice firm bite.
- I couldn’t really tell the chickpeas were smoked in Alderwood unless I really paid attention.
- I love corn in my chili so I really liked that addition, but I couldn’t taste the butternut squash.
- There were some diced butternut squash here and there, but I lost their flavour.
- It was mostly beans and chickpeas and I wouldn’t have minded more squash or other veggies.
- It had a lot of flavour and it was mild in spice and although I preferred the Smokey Beef Chili, the vegetarian was also very good.